The report ‘Attracting and retaining women in oil and gas engineering – a survey examining the gender talent gap’, highlights the myriad of pathways women are taking to find careers in oil and gas, underscoring the excellent opportunities the sector has to cross-train from ancillary industries as well as non-traditional disciplines. In fact, 44% of respondents stated that they had worked in different industries such as building and construction and even law and retail, before moving into oil and gas.
The report also shows that in order to attract and retain female workers, the industry needs to improve its ability to provide mentorship, recognise workers equally and highlight the benefits of studying STEM subjects in schools and universities.
Although, 75% of women feel welcome working in the oil and gas industry, almost half believe they do not get the same recognition as their male colleagues.
To help improve the issue 95% of women believe mentors are important for career advancement in the oil and gas industry yet 42% said they were neither a mentor nor a mentee.
Rebecca Ridley, Associate Director – UK Client Development at NES Global Talent, said: “National Women in Engineering Day (June 2014) celebrates the great opportunities for women in engineering at a time when it has never been more important to address skills shortages. The encouraging news is that the vast majority of female employees do feel welcome in the sector and say they would recommend a career in oil and gas engineering to others. Yet 45% say they do not get the same recognition as men. It is crucial that this issue is better managed if the sector is to become more attractive to women.”
She added: “Many respondents said they are paid less, have fewer opportunities than their male counterparts and have to work harder than men to prove themselves. There are clear improvements to be made, if the oil and gas sector is to attract larger numbers of female engineers in the future."
In line with many other sectors and roles, the implementation of formal mentoring programmes would be an important step in supporting the most talented women engineers. This would enable them to progress to senior positions in the oil and gas industry and, in doing so, become the role models of tomorrow.
Dawn Bonfield, Executive Vice President of Women's Engineering Society (WES), the organisers of National Women in Engineering Day commented: “Currently just under 10% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female. Breaking that down further, only about half (51%) of female STEM graduates actually go on to work in STEM roles, compared with over two thirds (68%) of male STEM graduates.
“We need to step up promotion to make it clear that engineering offers just as much for women as it does for men. By encouraging girls into engineering careers we will not only be increasing diversity and inclusion – a business imperative – but enabling us to fill the substantial future job opportunities that have been predicted in this sector.
”We are really pleased that NES Global Talent and many other companies who work to improve gender diversity in the engineering sector are celebrating this inaugural day, and we hope that through focusing attention on the issues that exist we can work together to make the engineering sector a more inclusive sector for women to work.”
Commenting on NES Global Talent’s report, Averil Macdonald, Professor of Science Engagement at the University of Reading who sits on the board of WISE, states that creative recruitment techniques executed with women in mind will also help with attraction. “Oil and gas sector companies should focus on engaging with young women both at school and at university, providing role models and an opportunity for young women to see for themselves what the sector has to offer through visits and paid internships. This will ensure that oil and gas companies lead the way amongst engineering employers in benefiting from the untapped talent of those female engineers whose skills will, otherwise, be recognised and rewarded elsewhere,” she said.
Only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female, 5.5% of engineering professionals are female and only 27% of engineering and science technicians are female.
Rebecca Ridley, Associate Director, UK Client Development at NES Global Talent discussing the male dominated environment: "Oil and gas engineering is a male dominated industry, but don't let this put you off taking the plunge. The industry is working hard to fix the gender imbalance and although there are certainly still issues to overcome, don’t let all the negative headlines put you off, our recent survey shows that 75% of women feel welcome working in the oil and gas industry. Things are changing and there are some amazing careers available in the sector - just look at oil and gas giant Petrobras’ CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster, she's the first female to make it to the top of the company. Women like her are blazing a trail for others to follow.
“If you are interested in the STEM subjects at school why not think about getting some work experience or an internship to see what it’s like to work in the industry? Engineering careers are exciting and varied, it's not all hard hats and oil rigs, although if that's your goal then go for it. There are some inspiring new groups out there such as the STEMettes and UK young scientists fair The Big Bang, that are focused on showing young women, and young people in general, the rewarding opportunities available in engineering. The Tomorrow’s Engineers website provides a one stop shop for information on careers in engineering and is definitely worth a look.
“The industry is working to open up more offshore opportunities for women. If you want to transition from another career into engineering there are plenty of organisations that can help you such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers. The Government is also looking at ways to make the engineering industry more attractive to women and have set up the Women’s Network in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the POWERful Women Group to highlight the need for more women in energy.
“Perhaps the most important resource to tap into to give you the confidence to take the plunge is other female engineers. Find out more about their experiences, the challenges they have faced and how they overcame them. There are plenty of women working in oil and gas, they may be a minority but numbers are growing. Mentors are important for development in any career but perhaps even more so in oil and gas as it's currently so male dominated. Find out more about female engineers that inspire you, connect with them if you can. If they can do it, so can you. Groups like the Women in Engineering Society (WES) and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) can help you find someone in the industry to talk to and give you all the advice you in on how to tackle any concerns you might have about working in the sector. Never let gender stop you from pursuing your dreams."